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About the Book: The Other Americans

Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant in California, is killed by a speeding car as he walks across a darkened intersection. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters: Guerraoui’s daughter Nora, a jazz composer who returns to the small town in the Mojave she thought she’d left for good; his widow Maryam, who still pines after her life in the old country; Efrain, an undocumented witness whose fear of deportation prevents him from coming forward; Jeremy, a former classmate of Nora’s and a veteran of the Iraq war; Coleman, a detective who is slowly discovering her son’s secrets; Anderson, a neighbor trying to reconnect with his family; and the murdered man himself.

Driss’s family confronts its secrets, a town faces its hypocrisies, and love—messy and unpredictable—is born. Timely, riveting, and unforgettable, The Other Americans is at once a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture.

April Rocha

Laila Lalami

Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States. She is the author of four novels, including The Moor’s Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program, and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently a full professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Her new book, a work of nonfiction called Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America, was published in September 2020.

Author Interview Questions

I was born and raised in Morocco. I fell in love with books at a young age, probably because both of my parents were readers. One of my earliest memories is watching my mother and father, sitting on either end of the sofa, each with a book in their hands. I’ve been writing stories since I was nine years old, but I didn’t try to publish until after I finished my doctoral degree, started working for a software start-up company, and realized that I needed a creative outlet more than ever before.

My first book, the collection of short stories Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits (2005), is about a group of Moroccan immigrants who cross the Mediterranean on a lifeboat. My second book, the novel Secret Son (2009), tells the story of a young man from a Casablanca slum who discovers the identity of his real father, leading him on a journey that has devastating personal and political consequences. My third book, The Moor’s Account (2014), is based on the true story of the first black explorer of America, a Moroccan slave known as Estebanico, who was part of the Narváez expedition to Florida in 1528. My most recent book, The Other Americans (Pantheon, 2019), is about the suspicious death of a Moroccan immigrant in California, which sets off a chain of events that reveals a family’s secrets, a small town’s hypocrisies, and the ties that bind people together.

LA Times in the author interview section credit Dania Maxwell and the Los Angeles Times, Copyright 2019 LA Times in the author interview section credit Dania Maxwell and the Los Angeles Times, Copyright 2019

Two reasons. The first is that I fell in love with the landscape of the high desert from the moment I started visiting it, about ten years ago, and I wanted to recreate it in fiction. The second is that I wanted to set my story in a small town, where it would be harder to solve the hit-and-run and where the effect on the community would be more salient.

I came to the United States in 1992 as a foreign student and became an immigrant by chance, after I met and married an American. I think the experience of immigration, even under the best of circumstances, splits a life into a Before and After. Immigrants leave behind families, friends, and communities to whom they’re still attached even if they never see them. That absence leaves a mark. In my fiction, I often explore migration—why we leave our homes, how we make new homes, the ripple effects of these decisions.

Migration is one of the oldest themes in literature. The earliest stories we tell ourselves—Adam’s fall from Eden, Moses’ flight out of Egypt, Jesus’ birth as a refugee, Muhammad’s hegira to Medina—are stories of exile, immigration, cross-cultural encounters, etc. But every generation needs to hear these stories told anew, in new contexts, by new storytellers.

The novel tells the stories of nine different characters, revealing how their opinions of the hit-and-run are limited by their perspectives, desires, motives, and ambitions. Their secrets are entrusted to the reader, even if they are never revealed to other characters, and that serves to underline the idea that individual perspective is constrained.

All kinds of people influence my work—my family, my friends, even strangers with whom I have conversations at the coffee shop. But in terms of writers, the novelists I go back to most often are: James Baldwin, J.M. Coetzee, Marguerite Duras, Graham Greene, and Toni Morrison.

It’s a collection of essays on the theme of national belonging. We like to think of citizenship as a great equalizer: after all, we all carry the same passports. But our encounters with our government—whether at a police stop, a border checkpoint, in the voting booth—are still partly determined by race, class, gender, or national origin, which is to say they’re determined by accidents of birth. The rights, protections and liberties of American citizenship are not yet available equally to all; instead, a great many of us are what I would call conditional citizens, rather than equal citizens.

Immigration: A Journey of Emotions
Micaela Guthrie

Immigrating to a new country evokes a myriad of emotions: happiness, excitement, wonder, trepidation, and doubt to name but a few. Another common emotion some immigrants may experience as they forge new lives in new lands, where customs can be quite different from those of their homelands, is fear. This may be fear of apprehension for those without documents, or fear of not belonging for those who do have documents. This primal emotion informs and influences the interactions many immigrants have with their community at large, whether that be neighbors, law enforcement, fellow students, or colleagues. At times it may even be within one’s own family.

In Laila Lalami's The Other Americans, fear colors the actions and decisions of many of the characters. Whether it be Nora not wanting to draw attention to herself at school for fear of bullying and racism, or Efrain not wanting to call the police to share what he witnessed the night of Driss’s accident for fear of being deported, fear is a lens through which Nora and Efrain often view their interactions with society...

For many immigrants, especially in times of divisiveness, this fear can be all encompassing and overwhelming. Fear in the context of interacting with law enforcement once stood as an obstacle preventing immigrant crime victims from reporting crimes for fear of being removed. This led to the enactment of the U Nonimmigrant status to provide temporary protection, in the form of deferred action and a work permit, to victims of qualifying crimes. To qualify, a victim needs to assist in the detection, investigation, or prosecution of a crime and have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of being the victim of the crime. Allowing for crime victims to emerge from the shadows and seek justice is an integral part of the healing in allowing their stories to be told and their voices heard.

However, even with certain provisions designed to encourage the interaction between immigrants and members of the criminal justice system, a sense of distrust still exists. Trust in the judicial system is at times met with the fear of being judged on the basis of nationality or race and not on facts. As Nora poignantly notes, if it had been her father who had been driving, would a man named Mohammad receive the same benefit of doubt as a white counterpart?

Fear, however, when addressed, examined, and confronted, can often give way to its counterpart: hope. As immigrants navigate their way through life, relationships and experiences can kindle a new sense of self in one’s interactions with society. In The Other Americans, many of the main characters move through fear to hope, a switching of emotions and lenses through which the world is examined. This switching from fear to hope rings true for many immigrants. Hope to feel like one belongs, and hope that their chosen home embraces them as one of their own.

Micaela Guthrie is an attorney with the Bend Immigration Group (BIG), LLC. She earned her law degree at Washington University and has dedicated her legal career to the practice of immigration law. BIG's four attorneys speak Spanish fluently and are committed to working with Central Oregon's Latino and immigrant populations, including many DACA recipients and mixed-status families.

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Unbelonging in Post-9/11 America

9/11 challenged American amnesia about the US’s history of destructive meddling in the Middle East on the heels of British colonial rule, 1 Priya Satia, “How WW1 Gave Us Drones,” July 30, 2014,, disrupting the complacency of the post-Cold War neoliberal order. It was uncanny watching the resulting war on terror unfold as I wrote a book on the British invention of aerial policing in the Middle East after World War One—a system that they unblushingly owned was grounded in “terror.” 2 Priya Satia, Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain’s Covert Empire in the Middle East (OUP, 2008).

While covert aerial warfare insulates many Americans against awareness of this war without end, as it did Britons in that earlier era, other Americans have been inescapably caught in its dehumanizing gaze. For 9/11 changed what it meant to be American, reawakening atavistic binaries well after the civil rights movement had won that argument (if not yet the reality). Sweeping arrests, spying on Muslim communities, deportations, unrelenting media demonization, blacklists, hate crimes, the infamous Muslim ban—all this domestic accompaniment to the war on terror bred fear among minority communities. Where I once felt confident in my right to belong, however limited my actual experience of belonging, I grew insecure as the state reintroduced disparate categories of belonging based on race and faith. I worried about speaking my mother tongue in public, wearing Punjabi attire in public, my gorgeous, bearded brother—my everyday life as a South Asian-American existence had suddenly become suspect. ...

 9/11 challenged American
Photo Credit: Steve Castillo

These were not idle fears, even for someone with socioeconomic privilege. In 2011, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) blacklisted my three-year-old because of his beautiful name, Kabir, a name of Arabic origin referring to the fifteenth-century Indian poet-mystic Kabir, whose ecumenical religious preaching makes him dear to Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. How darkly ironic that such a name would entangle a toddler in a bigoted security apparatus incapable of conceiving of syncretism. As we traveled home to San Francisco from Delhi via Singapore and Hong Kong, Kabir endured special screenings and pat-downs, including vigorous search of his mini Spiderman backpack. I remember his bewildered protest: “But I’m not a bad guy, Mama.”

It took much bureaucratic hassle to convince the DHS that Kabir was not a terrorist. They then moved him to a list of once-blacklisted Americans—a roster of individuals who sound like they might be terrorists but are not (as if the penchant for violence is an immutable trait unrelated to shifting context, to history). He is required to use a special seven-digit pin number to fly—I wonder how it will mark him when he is a young man, perhaps with a beard? The DHS institutionalized the renewed post-9/11 presumption that not everyone in the homeland is equal; that there are real Americans, and “other Americans.”

The category of “terrorist” has become so synonymous with Muslim (and those who read as Muslim) that the Republican Senator Susan Collins immediately assumed Iranians were behind the January 6 attack on the Capitol. That event was connected to 9/11, but in a different way: White supremacists and veterans of America’s war on terror were prominent among the attackers. Like most terrorizing acts of violence in the US, including mass shootings by men toting military-style firearms, this one was perpetrated by white Americans committed to racist and bigoted ideologies that were encouraged after 9/11; it was also enabled by a security state obsessively focused on plots being hatched abroad. 3 Farhad Manjoo, “Finally, a President Acknowledges White Supremacists,” New York Times, Jan. 22, 2021, This culture and political crisis are part of the global wreckage of the terrorizing war on terror.

The solution is not to expand our definition of “terrorism” to include violent white supremacists; we have witnessed the dehumanizing effect of that word, its silencing of conversations about causes and politics and licensing of violent policing tactics that harm historically marginalized minority communities. Moreover, we have laws to prosecute such violence—if the security state’s law enforcement agencies can recover from their long complicity in distinguishing between real and “other” Americans. 4 Moustafa Bayoumi, “No, We Do Not Need New Anti-Terrorism Laws to Combat Right-Wing Extremists,” The Nation, Jan. 11, 2021,

Priya Satia is the Raymond A. Spruance Professor of International History and Professor of History at Stanford University, where she teaches modern British and British Empire history. Her award-winning books include Spies in Arabia: The Great War and the Cultural Foundations of Britain's Covert Empire in the Middle East, Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution, and Time's Monster: How History Makes History. Satia also writes frequently for popular media, such as Time, The Nation, Washington Post, The New Republic, and

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Also Read: Top five

Even a global pandemic could not keep A Novel Idea down! Things looked different for the selection team this year but the outcome—finding a great book for the community to read and discuss together—remained intact. Community Readers began meeting in January 2020 to curate a list of possible titles for A Novel Idea 2021. With only one in-person meeting under our belts, we began meeting virtually in March. Getting comfortable discussing books via Zoom and reading mostly in digital formats pushed the team to develop new skills. This year we added a diversity audit to our process to ensure that we are looking at books that represent a wider variety of voices and lived experiences. As a result, our top ten included books by the most diverse group of authors we’ve ever considered. The books that round out the top five include a wide variety of topics, themes, and genres, all worthy of your time. We hope that you’ll read them all!

Valentine by Elizabeth Wetmore
Set in Odessa and Midland Texas during the oil booms of the '70s, this haunting novel is full of dust, oil, anger, racism, love, and rage. Debut author Elizabeth Wetmore takes turns following an interwoven cast of female main characters. In a land that glorifies roughnecks and oil workers this story focuses on the women. The novel starts with violence and heartbreak, leaving the reader and characters to pick-up the pieces over the next 300 pages.
Graham Fox, Community Librarian, Redmond

Your House Will Pay by Steph Cha
A split-second decision during the Los Angeles unrest in the 1990s leaves a young black woman dead and two families bound together by the violence. Flash forward to present day when another shocking crime hits L.A. and the two families are forced to face down their shared history. This is a suspense-filled novel is about murder, repentance, and ultimately forgiveness.
Liisa Sjoblom, Community Librarian, Downtown Bend

The Mountains Sing by Nguyễn Phan Quế As a librarian, it's a blessing when you read a book that you can recommend to a wide range of bibliophiles. This has been that novel for me lately. With its lyrical prose and perfect plotline, I've been telling book clubs and adult readers interested in reading more #ownvoices all about it!
Rya Fennewald, Community Library, Downtown Bend

Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
As undocumented citizens, Castillo’s family lives with the unknown every day, under the threat of deportation, all while simply attempting to live fully. Topics such as ICE, Dreamers and DACA, assimilation, undocumented immigrants, and migrant workers are removed from harmful stereotypes. Castillo’s story humanizes an often-overlooked experience.
Sami Kerzel, Community Librarian, Sunriver

This year we’re including the books that comprised the remaining top ten. We had to let some outstanding books go this year but wanted to make sure that readers had access to those titles as well. For a complete list of all books we considered, please check out the Bibliocommons list here:

Rounding out the top 10

Upcoming 2021 Novel Idea Events

  • Apr 11

    4:00 PM -

    A link to view this presentation will be available beginning April 11 at 4:00 p.m.

    We want to hear from you: please fill out this short survey

    Join Ben Lawson, the director of Redmond High School's jazz band, for music, memories and the meaning of being a part of a jazz band.

    Nora, the protagonist in Laila Lalami's The Other Americans is a musician and composer. As a student, Nora was a member of her high school's jazz band. For her, jazz band provided a creative outlet as well as a community. Like Nora, the student musicians in Ben Lawson's jazz band are motivated not only by music, but also by each other. Being a part of the jazz band requires commitment (pre-covid, they met during 0 period … before 1st period) and the love of being a part of a musical team. During this presentation, Mr. Lawson shares some performances from the group as well as memories from some of the outstanding musicians that he has mentored over the years. *ani* *oo*

  • Apr 14

    6:00 PM -

    This is a live presentation. Register here for the Zoom link:

    Recording of program available online after April 16.

    Hear past events in Casablanca put into context for today.

    Driss Guerraoui and his family moved to the U.S. in the wake of Casablanca's 1981 protests and unrest. Dr. Mahmood Ibrahim, Professor Emeritus of History at California State Polytechnic University, will be using the events in Casablanca to highlight aspects of Moroccan history, as a way of explaining the riots and putting them in a contemporary Moroccan context.

    Dr. Mahmood Ibrahim is Professor Emeritus of History at California State Polytechnic University at Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona). Since 1989 he's taught courses on Islam, the Middle East and North Africa, History Methods and Historiography for undergraduate and graduate students. His special area of research is the medieval period around the Mediterranean Sea, currently researching climate conditions in medieval Damascus and a biography of Qadi Abu Bakr (1076-1148), Chief Judge of Seville for the Almoravids.

    He has been a member of the Academic Senate for many three-year terms and chaired several committees, including the Academic Programs Committee and the Faculty Affairs Committee. Recently, he chaired the General Education Committee and co/chaired the Curriculum Conversion Coordinating Committee tasked with converting Cal Poly Pomona's academic programs and courses, including GE, from Quarter to Semester system. He also served as the Chair of the History Department for two terms from 1996-2004.

    He was born as a refugee in the West Bank town of Ramallah in 1948, immigrated to the United States in 1966 and lived in New York City where he received his BA from the City College of New York (CCNY) in 1973. Dr. Ibrahim moved to Los Angeles where he attended UCLA, receiving his MA in 1974 and his Doctorate in 1981.

    He was awarded several Fulbright and National Endowment for the Humanities grants and fellowships. He participated in several NEH Summer Seminars (Islamic Science-Columbia University; Just War and Jihad-Rutgers University; St. Francis of Assisi and his Time, Siena, Italy). He has led several student Education Abroad Programs to Morocco and a U. S. Department of Education/Fulbright Hays Grant (Fulbright GPA) to lead a six-week seminar/tour for 13 educators.
    Dr. Ibrahim taught as a visiting lecturer at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, and UC Riverside before going to Bir Zeit University, the West Bank where he became chair of the Department of History, Geography and Political Science from 1985-1989 leading it through the first Palestinian Uprising (the Intifada). His contributions to Cal Poly Pomona and its students are recognized through several research awards and Sabbaticals, and the award of Outstanding Academic Senator as well as the George P. Hart Award for Outstanding Faculty Leadership.

    He is the author of Merchant Capital and Islam (University of Texas Press, 1991) and many other articles and book reviews. For more information visit: *ani* *zm*

  • Apr 15

    6:00 PM -

    This is a live presentation. Register for Zoom link here

    A recording of this program will be available on April 22 at 6:00 p.m.

    Tom O'Keefe of Standford's Center for Latin American Studies, explores how U.S. policies shaped current immigration crisis.

    This program is in partnership with the Latino Outreach Visioning steering group of Trinity Episcopal Church.

    Discover how the long and troubled history of U.S. military and covert interventions in Central America and failed U.S. economic assistance and climate change policies are responsible for the waves of desperate people currently fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, and why the United States has a legal and moral responsibility to admit them as refugees.

    Thomas Andrew O'Keefe, a dual national of the United States and Chile, is the President of Mercosur Consulting Group, Ltd., a legal and economic consulting firm that assists companies with their strategic business planning for South America as well as advises Latin American firms exporting to the United States. He did his undergraduate work at Columbia University, and received his J.D. from the Villanova University School of Law. In 1986, he worked for the legal departments of the Chilean Human Rights Commission and the Vicaría de la Solidaridad (the human rights office of the Archdiocese of Santiago). He also worked as an associate for a number of years at the Wall Street law firm of Carter, Ledyard & Milburn and the Boston-based Gadsby & Hannah before returning to study at the University of Oxford, where he received an M.Phil. in Latin American Studies (History and Economics) in 1992. He has taught courses on Colonial Latin America, Western Hemisphere economic integration, the political economy of the Southern Cone Countries of South America, energy and climate cooperation in the Americas, and U.S.-Latin America diplomatic history at American University, Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, and Stanford University. He served as Chair of the Western Hemisphere Area Studies Program at the U.S. State Department's Foreign Service Institute between 2011 and 2016. During the spring 2015 semester, he also taught a seminar on International Human Rights Law at the Villanova University School of Law.

    Trinity Episcopal Church is a community of Christians who welcome diversity in theology and worldview. The Latino Outreach Visioning steering group of Trinity Episcopal Church works to grow our understanding of and connection with the Latino community. *ani* *zm*

  • Apr 17

    1:00 PM -

    A link to view this recording available online starting Saturday, April 17, 1:00 p.m. Registration closes Wednesday, April 14.

    Learn about the care and feeding of air plants as you create your own mini Joshua Tree-inspired ecosystem. *Registration is required for library-provided supplies for this program; supplies are limited.

    Terrariums filled with small plants and lovely rocks are all the rage. Learn about the care and feeding of air plants as you create your own mini Joshua-Tree-inspired ecosystem, mimicking the setting of The Other Americans. Registration is required to receive a program kit, which will be available for scheduled pick-up at your preferred library prior to the event. Limit one kit per customer. All kit materials are quarantined.

    Community Librarian Roxanne M. Renteria has worked for Deschutes Public Library since 2014, and serves the La Pine Library area. As the child of two librarians, she grew up in her local public library - sneakily taking candy from the reference desk drawer, and ensuring VHS tapes were rewound for the next customer. Roxanne began volunteering in her teens, and has worked a variety of jobs in academic and public libraries across a handful of states. She wears many hats as a rural librarian, but her favorite duties are story time, outreach and program planning. She spends her free time tackling new DIY projects.*ani* *oo*

  • Apr 17

    3:00 PM -

    This is a live workshop. Register here for the Zoom link:
    Recording of program available online after April 19th.

    Gather ingredients and cook delicious meals inspired by the book.

    Food offers a welcome sense of the home country to many characters in The Other Americans. This cooking class is a merging of flavors, much as the book is a merging of different cultures. We will be preparing Moroccan stuffed peppers with a sweet and savory filling of spiced ground beef, brown rice, currants, and mint. This is a common dish in Morocco usually made with lamb. We'll also prepare a torta de carnitas - a favorite of Efrain's. We will make our own version of this Mexican pulled pork sandwich with fresh guacamole, black beans, and fresh salsa.

    Here are the recipes and optional ingredient lists if you'd like to cook along with the Chef:

    - Moroccan Stuffed Peppers:

    - Torta De Carnitas:

    - Braised Pork Carnitas:

    Rose Archer has been a chef for over 25 years. Her career has taken her into some of the best kitchens in the world including Spago's in Beverly Hills and Osteria Francescana in Modena, Italy. Her passion for healthy living inspired her to launch an online cooking program called True You Food where students learn to cook whole real foods through a 10 module video series. For more information visit

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  • Apr 19

    1:00 PM -

    This is a live presentation. Register here for the Zoom link:

    Discuss the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and resources for evidence-based trauma treatment.

    Recording of program available online after April 21st.

    One of the prominent voices in the novel is Jeremy: a Marine veteran who served in Iraq. Both he and his unit buddy, Fierro, have PTSD that manifests in different ways in their lives. Frachescha Scott, PhD will discuss whether the portrayal of PTSD in The Other Americans is a realistic representation of patients with PTSD and talk about resources for being able to identify different types of evidence-based trauma treatment.

    Franchesca Scott, PhD is a postdoctoral fellow at STRONG STAR. There she provides evidenced-based PTSD treatment to active duty soldiers, veterans, and military family. She supports veteran health research and provides consultation services to behavioral health providers for prolonged exposure therapy. Prior to this role, Scott worked as a clinical psychology resident at the Intrepid Spirit Trauma Brain Injury (TBI) clinic located at Fort Hood, Texas. There she provided specialized care such as neuropsychological and cognitive assessments, which has enabled 90% of patients to continue on active duty with many of their symptoms reduced or controlled. In addition, she had leading roles to promote military cultural competence in the community, to coordinate outreach efforts and reduce stigma associated with seeking mental healthcare. Dr. Scott earned her PhD in clinical psychology and industrial-organizational psychology from Alliant International University in San Diego, California. She served in the U.S. Army as a Captain in the Medical Service Corps.

    The South Texas Research Organizational Network Guiding Studies on Trauma and Resilience, or STRONG STAR, is a multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research consortium funded by the U.S. Departments of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) to develop and evaluate the most effective early interventions possible for the detection, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of combat-related posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions in active-duty military personnel and recently discharged veterans. Under the leadership of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and based in South-Central Texas, STRONG STAR brings together the expertise of a world-class team of military, civilian and VA institutions and investigators and one of the largest populations of active-duty and recently discharged Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation New Dawn combat veterans in the nation. With the critical mass of talent required to make major scientific advances in military PTSD research, STRONG STAR investigators hope to improve countless lives by preventing the development of chronic PTSD and related problems in a new generation of veterans.

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  • Apr 19

    6:00 PM -

    Join Deon for an online book discussion of The Other Americans.

    Visit for more info.

    *ani* *zm*

  • Apr 22

    7:00 PM -

    This is a live webinar. Register here to receive the Zoom link:

    Recording of program available online after April 24.

    Join us on a journey into the experiences of a synesthete and learn what it is like to hear in color.

    Synesthesia is a very rare neurological condition in which one or more sensory pathways become intertwined. When one is sense activated, another unrelated sense is activated at the same time.

    For Chris Thomas (a composer), the experience of hearing sound activates an involuntary swirl of colors and textures. The vivid sensation of hearing music in color is a blessing and a curse. While synesthesia offers a unique artistic perspective, the involuntary nature of the condition can be a constant distraction.

    This discussion will cover the experience of living with synesthesia, its impact on daily life, and how it can become part of the creative process. Chris will even bring a series of colors and perform the sounds related to them. Participants will observe a work of art, then listen to how it "sounds."

    Chris Thomas is a composer for film, television, theme parks, and a TEDx speaker. His scores have been nominated for a Hollywood Music in Media Award, Film & TV Music Award, and he won the Gold Medal Prize at the Park City Film Music Festival, and Best Film & TV Music award at eWorld Music Awards. Chris has written music for several Emmy-nominated films, and for Woman Rebel, which was shortlisted for an Academy Award. In television, he works as a composer, orchestrator, and conductor for networks such as ABC, FOX, CBS, and HBO.

    Chris's work can be heard in theme parks all over the world. He has written music for the Evermore Adventure Park, Knott's Berry Farm, Queen Mary Chill, Dreamland Theme Park (UK), Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, and many more.

    Chris's works for the concert hall have been performed from Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, to the Hollywood Bowl. He recently premiered a series of concert works in France, Belgium, and Germany. His Symphony #1 (the Malheur Symphony) was the subject of a TED Talk in 2019. His works are published with The FJH Music Company, Walton Choral, Wingert-Jones Publications, and Carl Fischer Music.

    More information on Chris Thomas can be found at - *ani* *zm*

  • Apr 23

    12:00 PM -

    Read and discuss The Other Americans with friends and neighbors. Click the link above or join at or with Meeting ID 933 1634 6029

    About the book:
    Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant in California, is walking across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters to tell their stories and the invisible connections that tie them together - even while they remain deeply divided by race, religion or class. The Other Americans by Laila Lalami unfolds as told from nine unique perspectives. Each point of view, from the undocumented witness to the recently relocated detective, shows what it means for the family, community and country to form a sense of identity while uncovering the mystery of Driss's death.

    About the Author:
    Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain and the United States. She is the author of four novels, including The Moor's Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently a full professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Her new book, a work of nonfiction called Conditional Citizens, was published in September 2020.


  • Apr 24

    11:00 AM -

    Discuss Front Desk by Kelly Yang via Zoom.

    Front Desk, the award winning debut middle-grade novel by Kelly Yang tells the story of Mia Tang, who helps her parents manage a motel in Southern California as they pursue their American dream. As they navigate a system hostile to immigrants, they form a community based on trust and love.
    Kelly Yang was born in China and immigrated to America with her parents when she was six years old. She went to college at the age of 13 and law school at the age of 17. After law school, she gave up law to pursue her passion of writing and teaching children writing. She is the founder of The Kelly Yang Project, a leading writing and debating program for kids in Asia.

    More details about A Novel Idea Youth Edition at

    *zm* *allani*

    Join via Zoom:

  • Apr 26

    6:00 PM -

    A link to view this presentation will be available beginning April 26 at 6:00 p.m.

    We want to hear from you: please fill out this short survey

    Explore the art inspired by The Other Americans created by COCC students.

    Using The Other Americans as inspiration, Bill Cravis and his students created art. In this video they document their process as their work develops.

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  • Apr 27

    5:30 PM -

    This is a live webinar. Register here to receive the Zoom link: or click "Register Here" above.

    Recording of program available online after April 29.

    Examine the history and influence of opioids and learn how their use for pain relief transformed into a national epidemic.

    Opioids been cultivated by humans since antiquity, with earliest references to opium poppies as Hul Gil, the "the joy plant" in 5000 year old Sumerian cuneiform tablets. Medical use of opioids was described by Hippocrates in the 5th century BCE. While the medical benefits of opioids for relief of pain are well recognized, their overuse and abuse has also led to an epidemic of addiction and deaths, uncountable and often untold suffering. Much about opioids has been published -- spanning fiction, biography, lay and scientific literature. Laila Lalami, the author of The Other Americans, introduces the difficult and vexing topic of opioid addiction.

    We will be discussing the bio-psycho-socio-economic science of opioids and the history of the US opioid epidemic; namely, how a quite simple organic compound can be such a shape-shifter, with the potential to change from a pain-relieving gift to humanity into a cursed affliction that dramatically alters who and how we are with others.

    David Tauben, M.D., FACP is Emeritus Clinical Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, and recently retired Chief of the UW Division of Pain Medicine, board certified in both Internal Medicine and Pain Medicine, and has practiced as Primary Care physician for 30 years and Pain Medicine expert for over 25 years. Dr. Tauben is also UW Director of Medical Student Education in Pain Medicine and leads UW TelePain, an innovative tele-video-conferencing program delivering pain and addiction management educational consultative support to Pacific Northwest primary care providers. He has been principal investigator for the UW's NIH Pain Consortium Center of Excellence for Pain Education, a member of the NIH National Pain Strategy task force on Pain Education, and a founding and continuing member of the State of Washington Agency Medical Directors panel of clinician experts developing opioid prescription guidelines for chronic pain. He earned his BA in Philosophy at Yale University, Medical Degree at Tufts University, and completed his Residency training at the University of Washington.
    *ani* *zm*

  • Apr 29

    6:00 PM -

    Test your knowledge of the Novel Idea adult and youth titles

    So you read The Other Americans by Laila Lalami and Front Desk by Kelly Yang, but how well do you really know them? Now is your chance to test your knowledge from the comfort of your own home. Grab a pen and paper, gather the family or a quarantine buddy, and a device with internet access. We'll go through a couple rounds of questions to see how well you know these two books.

    Join the Zoom event at or by phone at +1-408-638-0968 using Webinar ID 929 8595 8606.*allani*

  • May 2

    4:00 PM -

    A link to the live presentation will be available beginning Sunday, May 2 at 3:30 p.m.

    Laila Lalami, author of The Other Americans discusses her work with local creative Jason Graham.About the Book: The Other Americans
    Late one spring night, Driss Guerraoui, a Moroccan immigrant in California, is walking across a darkened intersection when he is killed by a speeding car. The repercussions of his death bring together a diverse cast of characters to tell their stories and the invisible connections that tie them together—even while they remain deeply divided by race, religion or class.

    About the Author: Laila Lalami
    Laila Lalami was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain and the United States. She is the author of four novels, including The Moor's Account, which won the American Book Award, the Arab-American Book Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. Her most recent novel, The Other Americans, was a national bestseller and a finalist for the Kirkus Prize and the National Book Award in Fiction. She has received fellowships from the British Council, the Fulbright Program and the Guggenheim Foundation and is currently a full professor of creative writing at the University of California at Riverside. Her new book, a work of nonfiction called Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in American, was published in September 2020. *ani* *oo*

  • May 5

    6:00 PM -

    Join Cassie at Roundabout Books for a discussion of The Other Americans.

    Visit for more info.

    *ani* *zm*

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